Das Wasteland caught up with Berlin musical storyteller, fine artist and all round renaissance man, long term Brit expat and front man of Art Brut, Eddie Argos for a chat about nearly making it the states, being produced by Frank Black, offending the Strokes and hospitalisation.
DW: Your debut single with Art Brut, 'Formed A Band' was about the thrill of being in. a band. Has it lived up to expectations?
EE: Of course, all I ever wanted was to be in a band , I'm never going to stop. I love it! The lyrics to that song were made up on the spot with no planning totally improvised, just powered by the sheer exuberance of me finally living my dream. DW: Your first trip to LA saw you cruising the streets for charity shops before being stopped by police. How do you look back on the early days when 'Emily Kane' was almost a big hit in the USA?
EE: It was a strange time, we always did better outside the UK, especially in the US and Germany but it was before everything was online. So I'd come home to the Dublin Castle pub and tell my friends and family what I'd been up to and everyone seemed incredulous. I always felt like they thought I'd been at the end of my garden hiding for a month and emerging to tell them some strange fantasy I'd made up. Look here comes Eddie, he reckons he's just been playing a show with GhostFace Killah in front of Gnarls Barkley and Franz Ferdinand, oh right he's telling us now he just played on Conan O'Brien and had an interview to host an MTV Show, he's lost his mind.
Coincidentally my Aunt was in NY once when we played with the Hold Steady and came to see us, and I really felt like I had to say 'look see this is real I'm not mental'. I was sort of relieved to have a witness to be honest, I was sort of begining to doubt my own reality.
DW: What are your memories good and bad of working with Frank Black?
EE: No bad memories, I love him. He was so friendly and down to earth, whilst still managing to maintain an air of charasmatic mystery, exactly what you want really. We're still in touch, I think I can call him a friend. If I get an email now saying that we're just colleagues, I'll be very embarrassed. haha.
Art Brut vs Satan is my favourite album of ours (after the most recent one of course) and a lot of that was to do with him, and just the way we recorded it. All together in the snow in Salem writing and recording everything in one or two takes, still writing the songs even after record had been pressed, with him conducting us and filling us with confidence. A glorious time.
DW: Was it cathartic writing your book about the band's career?
EE:I'm glad I got it all down before I forgot it, I just reprinted the book and Im working on an audio book and i kept going oh yeah! That happened! I wouldn't call it cathartic I've had a good time, its an enthusiastic book about how much fun being in a band is. I'm trying to convince other people to start bands with it really. I want my enthusiasm to be contagious.
That book ends at Art Brut vs Satan. Im just starting work on another from then till now called I AM KULTFIGUR, lets see how it goes.
DW: You've lived in Weymouth, London and LA (among others). How does Berlin compare?
I love Berlin its definitely my favourite place I've lived. I've been here 11 years now, longer than I lived in London. Weymouth is of course a close second.
DW: You once sang "I can't stand the Velvet. Underground'. Have you mellowed in terms of rock'n'roll history?
It is everywhere in Berlin with Hansa Studios, Bowie, Iggy and Lou Reed etc. People misunderstood that lyric, I cant stand the Velvet Underground the second time around is the full thing. It was more about that garage rock revival thing that was going on in the early 00s. Everyone wearing sunglasses and leather jackets and taking drugs and thinking they were the Velvet Underground, when of course the Velvet Underground were a lot more interesting than that. When we first started I used to stop the song in the middle all the time and talk about that and explain myself. You could always tell if a band was a bit insecure about who they were ripping off as they'd take it personally. I'd have to say to them 'look mate I say it every night, if you are taking it personally maybe have a little look at your songs.' I wouldn't do that anymore so I guess I have mellowed.
Also it was fun shouting that I can't stand the sound of the Velvet Underground and letting it be intentionally misunderstood, especially in New York it was like going into a church and having a sermon where you shout about not believing in God. The first time we played in NY I dedicated it to the Strokes, kind of being a dick on purpose, but apparently some of them were there and left when I did it. Which is a shame, it would have been nice to hang out with them, I bet they know some good jokes. DW: 'Hospital' brilliantly summarises your frustrations at being in hospital for a month. Are you fully over it?
EE: I wrote that song in hospital as a kind of Mantra it was the worst three weeks of my life, I very nearly died. Im better now and its nice to be able to sing that song and feel the difference in myself. DW: You've painted over 200 paintings yet are still more famous for Art Brut. Are you now an artist who makes music?
EE: I've painted more than 600 paintings. 300 of other peoples favourite album covers alone. I don't know what I am, thats what my book I AM KULTFIGUR is going to be about, trying to (cult) figure it out. DW: Eddie, you are a Berlin legend and we salute you!
EE: Lovely to be on your album, thanks a lot!